In the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine will present a Private Members’ Bill to guarantee the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK.
The European Citizens’ Rights Bill would give all EU citizens living in the UK before Brexit the automatic right to stay, without having to apply to the Home Office’s Settled Status scheme.
The Liberal Democrats pointed out that Boris Johnson has repeatedly promised that EU citizens would automatically be granted the right to stay, but failed to deliver on that promise. Instead, EU citizens have to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by the end of June 2021, and only 1.6 million of the 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK have been granted Settled Status so far.
The Bill would also require the government to provide EU citizens with physical proof of their rights, rather than forcing them to rely on a digital code. EU citizens have raised concerns that the current system will leave them without a physical way to prove their immigration status, and that a lack of documents will lead to discrimination.
Ahead of the presentation of her Bill, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
"EU citizens in the UK have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for far too long. They are our families and friends, our colleagues and carers. They deserve assurance that they can stay.
"Boris Johnson and the Conservatives promised to automatically guarantee the rights of EU citizens to stay, but they have broken that promise.
"No one seriously believes that the Home Office will be able to grant settled status to everyone who’s eligible by June next year. Thousands will be left effectively undocumented and subject to the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment – at risk of eviction, detention and even deportation.
"Liberal Democrats are fighting for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, without the need to apply. They must not become the victims of a new Windrush-style scandal."
Also ahead of the presentation of the Bill, Maike Bohn, Co-founder of the3million, said:
"The last three years have seen seismic changes for EU citizens living in the UK that threaten to push hundreds of thousands of people into abject misery if they don’t apply for settled status by the deadline.
"The UK government will never know whether it has reached every EU citizen in the country and it has a duty of care to ensure that everyone gets the status they deserve, now and in future.
"The current digital-only application system is dangerous. If we don’t convert it into a simple registration for rights guaranteed in law, as this bill suggests, people who have made their home in the UK for years, for their entire lives in some cases, will suddenly face the inhumane reality of the British immigration system: unable to rent, open a bank account, access healthcare or jobs."